On occasion, time flies even before it has been determined whether you'll have any fun.

For verification, check with Sean Coyle.

Zoom, zoom, zoom. All of a sudden, Coyle got a taste of what it will be like in March 2010. Baseball isn't quite the same.

Coyle, a 5-8, 175-pound second baseman, just finished his junior year at Germantown Academy. Forever and ever, or so it seemed, his middle-infield partner was his brother, Tommy, who's 15 months older and proudly now owns a GA diploma, having just graduated.

But where was Tommy yesterday as Inter-Ac/Independents fell to Lehigh Valley, 3-1, in the first round of the 24th annual Carpenter Cup Classic at Penn's Meiklejohn Stadium? On the banned-from-performing list.

"It was weird. And kind of tough," Sean said.

The Triple C is enforcing a new rule. Seniors who committed to Division I baseball programs prior to March 1 are prohibited from playing. Tommy is bound for North Carolina, and Sean, an oral commit for now, will be following right behind him in September 2010.

"I can't remember a time when we weren't on the same team," said Sean, who went 1-for-4 with a single and hit into the hard-luck out of the game. "When we were much younger, I was the catcher and Tom was the shortstop. I got a little faster and moved to second base.

"I've been thinking about how strange it's going to be this fall. He just won't be at the house. Just me and my parents [Tom, Toni]. I'll have to get used to it. And I'll have a whole season of it next spring, of course."

According to coach Rick Mellor (Penn Charter), the new mandate cost Inter-Ac/Indy the services of 12 players.

Although Carp Cup guidelines call for each team's roster to include 25 players and three alternates, only 22 were in uniform and two of those were unavailable due to injury. Twenty-one are supposed to play no matter what; 18 in the batting order (maximum of six innings) and three pitchers (maximum of three innings).

With no other catcher on hand, freshman Chris Harvey (Germantown Academy) went the distance. Timmy Vernon (GA) went 1-for-2 with a double as the starting leftfielder and then reappeared to pitch shutout ball in the eighth and ninth. Four hurlers were necessary because Brett Slobodinsky (PC) had to depart one batter and two more pitches into the fifth with a tender left elbow.

"The new rules made it hard," Sean Coyle said. "Chris Gosik, Mike Lubanski, Tim Cooney, Mark Rhine, Rob Amaro, my brother . . . when I think of Inter-Ac baseball, those are the names. Great offensive players. And we couldn't use any of them. It was nice that Mark showed up to give us support; almost like an assistant coach."

Where, you ask, was Tommy Coyle?

"He had a game scheduled [later] for Rider College," Sean said. "If he'd tried to come here first, it wouldn't have worked out too well. I don't blame him."

Coyle, batting second, sent a shot to deep center in the first inning, flied out to left in the second and singled hard to right in the fourth.

In the home sixth, with LV having just gone ahead, 2-1, on a misjudged double and bloop single, Demetrius "Meat" Jennings (PC) walked and stole second with two away to give Coyle a chance at heroics. The righthanded hitter laced a shot to deep right. Andrew Brandstetter (Parkland), a lefty thrower, scrambled back and made a twisting, tumbling, throw-up-the-glove-at-the-last-second miracle catch just as he made contact with the mesh fence. Truly an all-timer.

Coyle's first reaction?

"You've gotta be kidding me," he remembered muttering.

"I thought it was going to be out at first," added the Chalfont resident. "Guess the wind held it up a little. Or I have to hit the weight room a little more. A play like that, though? What can you do? Tip your cap. It was like Willie Mays."

Earlier in the at-bat, Coyle had apparently been drilled on the wrist. While he was agonizing, maybe one-third of the way to first, he was called back to the box by plate ump Jim Carpino.

"He said it hit the knob of my bat," Coyle said. "I have a bruise on my wrist. It's OK. I did want to hit there, anyway."

The losers were held to three hits, fanned 12 times and stranded 10 runners (of 14 total) in scoring position.

The seventh began in extra-promising fashion, thanks to a walk to Matt Lengel (Haverford School) and single by John Citrone (GA). However, Citrone was thrown out trying to steal, then Ricky Moses (Friends' Central, whiff) and Steve Harrington (PC, slicing liner to left) were also retired.

In the eighth, with two away and the sacks jammed, Lengel was rung up on a borderline 0-2 pitch.

Inter-Ac/Indy's best pitcher was junior righty Keenan Kish (GA), who hit 87 mph on numerous radar guns behind the plate and allowed just one baserunner (HBP) in his three-inning stint.

Though the separated-from-big-bro experience was a first for Sean Coyle schoolwise, the transition had already started in AAU ball with a team called the Bandits.

"Tom's with our older team, and I'm with the younger," Sean said. "But with so many rainouts, we haven't had many games yet anyway. Plus, we can move up and down so I'm sure we'll still have games together."

Dad is an assistant coach to Bandits boss Dave Amaro, Rob's father and brother of Ruben Jr., the Phillies' general manager. The Phils last week drafted Rob, a Virginia signee, in the 40th round.

"My dad taught us mostly everything we know," Sean said. "If we go into a slump because of a flaw in our swing, he can set us straight because he knows us so well."

One thing Dad can't do: prevent a rightfielder from making a spectacular catch that ends the Sean-alone, Carp-Cup thing.

Time drags when you're not having fun. *